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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 10th December 2014 at 4:00 pm
Check out this live performance by raucous rock duo Slaves of their new single ‘The Hunter’, out the 12th of January 2015. The video is taken from their gig at Dalston Victoria on the 20th of November.
The band have two already sold out shows in Tunbridge Wells and Liverpool in February 2015, followed by their stint on the 2015 NME Awards Tour in February and March 2015.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 8th December 2014 at 2:00 pm
I was thinking to myself the other day that it’d been a long time since I saw a show at Black Cat Backstage and when I looked it up, I was right. The last time I had passed through Backstage’s door, it was just prior to SXSW 2014, to see Public Service Broadcasting on a chilly winter night. I’d no way of knowing it at the time of course, but in 2 weeks’ time, I would become a different person. This past Thursday evening, it was another cold winter night, but I’d be seeing three American bands, including one I’ve had the great pleasure of see evolving over the last couple of years, and playing a packed room too that could not have made me happier for them.
The first of the two local openers for the night was Pree. If you’re wondering where their unusual name is from, singer/guitarist/keyboardist May Tabol took inspiration from the Neutral Milk Hotel song ‘A Baby for Pree’. You can’t draw any obvious comparisons to Jeff Mangum’s band to this one though. The band stars Tabol, guitar Michael Zepeda, bassist Ben Schurr and drummer Ben Usie. They’ve definitely got a unique, at times whimsical sound. It’s like a space-rock filter has been placed on top of a Little Comets‘ sonic landscape (check out the wonky main melody and those guitars on latest single ‘Two Feet Shy’ that sound like Mickey Coles is playing them). But they’ve got some cutesy, twee vocal lines too. They’ve got a new album, ‘Rima’, scheduled to be out in February 2015 on Paper Garden Records, so stay tuned for that.
The second opener was another local group, the inexplicably named The Sea Life. I say inexplicably, because at least two of their members are from the suburb I was raised in, so I know they were miles and miles away from any sort of seaside. Frontman Jon Weiss not only has an epic hipster beard, but he’s also quite funny, making jokes throughout their whole set with their drummer and clearly a close friend Ryan Witt, who I understand is their newest member after their original sticksman departed in 2013.
It’s been bothering me that one of their songs sounds just like something I used to hear a lot on 6music but I can’t put my finger on it. So I’m just going to have to compare them to the burgeoning (and popular) slacker rock scene we’re experiencing right now, which leads to the assumption they’d be a hit in the UK. There is a melody to their songs but with his voice, Weiss takes poetic license to let the vocal not follow any set line. The guitar effects used can run to the psychedelic, but the impression I get is they want to leave a dreamy feeling on their audience. Judging from the squeals and shouts of excitement from punters, they’ve already got a loyal DC following.
So, now to the headliner, The Dig. I first saw the Brooklyn-based band open for Editors in February 2010 during my second year of being a music journalist, and we’ve been friends since. Their latest release, the 2013 ‘You & I’ EP, sees the band taking a more dreamy approach, as evidenced by the echoey guitars dreamier vocal stylings, including bassist Emile Mosseri employing a falsetto more frequently. Despite the name that seems to suggest a theme of togetherness, it’s really a six-track tour de force of loneliness. EP standout ‘Tired Hearts’, with Mark Demiglio’s understated drumming and an emotional guitar line, was a clear standout of the night; despite the modesty of the track on record, you could feel the electricity of it live. The relative darkness of their set – they turned out all the lights in a room except for a few they themselves had brought and set up on stage – seemed to be sympathetic to the vibes of the EP, but it made for impossible photo shooting conditions, so apologies, I don’t have any good photos of them from the night.
2012 album ‘Midnight Flowers’ is a much more raucous affair and includes hard-rocking gems. ‘Black Water’ is one of these, and having not seem the Dig since August 2013 (then opening for Little Comets at the Hamilton), I was surprised to see some of their underage fans grinding along to it (err, okay…) The bass thudder that is ‘I Already Forgot Everything You Said’ was another clear fan favourite of the night, with the girl in front of me squealing to her best friend that this was her favourite song by them. Yes. Squealing. And screaming. With fans like these, I just don’t understand why the Dig aren’t more popular. ::tap tap:: Hey, BBC! Are you listening? These guys are ready for their shot at the big time.
After emphatic yelling for “one more song!” from the audience, the band returned for an encore. I’m usually not a big fan of covers, but the Dig outdid themselves with a brilliant version of The Cranberries’ ‘Dreams’. They followed that up with the frenetically driving ‘Hole in My Heart’. It may have the emotion-tugging chorus “there’s a hole in my heart, she says it’s a friend / but I know in my heart she’s gonna do it again”, yet the tune is just so fun, you can’t help but shake a tail feather, it’s that catchy. And it marked the perfect end to a first-class live show. Excellent work, guys. If you happen to live in the New York City area, you have a chance to see the band one last time in 2014, playing the Pancakes and Whiskey holiday party on the 19th of December at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade shop.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 5th December 2014 at 4:00 pm
Niall Jackson, guitarist and vocalist with Irish bands Bouts and Swimmers, is the mastermind behind the charity single project Christmas Hearts. It was inspired by his and two fellow Dublin City University students’ project What is Home, which brings attention to the plight of the homeless and raises money for the Peter McVerry Trust, “established in 1983 by Father Peter McVerry to tackle homelessness, drug misuse and social disadvantage. Since then it has supported thousands of young people on the margins of Irish society.”
To benefit the trust this holiday season, Jackson and mates including Conor J. O’Brien of Villagers (pictured at top performing in DC last year), MayKay of Fight Like Apes, Jim McNulty of Spring Break, Shane Murphy of Land Lovers, Enda Canavan of Paddy Hanna and Brian Kelly from So Cow recorded a new single, ‘Christmas is in Your Heart’.
The song is out on iTunes, Rdio, CD and Bandcamp today, so if you like what you hear in the live video below, please buy it to support this charity. There will be an official launch party for the single at Dublin Whelan’s on the 11th of December. Tickets are just €10 and all proceeds go to Peter McVerry too. Either way you want to spend your money, dig deep for this very worthy charity!
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 4th December 2014 at 4:00 pm
The Rag Factory in Brick Lane, East London, is a pretty special performance space. It opened in 2006 “to provide affordable space for people working in the creative industries, whether performance-based, such as theatre, film, dance, music and fashion or visual arts such as painting, sculpture, photography, installation and graphic design”. As we all know, this business is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living from, so any space designed to be used by creative types regardless of the money in their pockets is something we all should get behind.
Woman’s Hour, whose Secretly Canadian debut album released this year is already appearing in top albums of 2014 lists around the blogosphere, recently filmed this live performance of ‘Her Ghost’. And you can watch it below.
Recently signed to Xtra Mile Recordings (the label home of Frank Turner and To Kill A King), six-piece folk-punk outfit Skinny Lister are set to release their second studio album ‘Down On Deptford Broadway’ next spring, just after their scheduled appearance at SXSW 2015. Along with the album release information, the band have also unveiled the video for ‘Trouble on Oxford Street’, which will feature on the new LP. Directed by The Film Smith and Wild Stag Studio, the high energy video includes live footage from a sold out Skinny Lister headline show at London’s 100 Club in October 2014.
Previous TGTF coverage of Skinny Lister, including their recently announced UK tour dates for next spring, can be found here.
I think most live music aficionados would agree that the atmosphere of a venue has an effect on the overall gig experience. Normally, that effect is fairly moderate, either a pleasant surprise or a mild annoyance, but in the most extreme cases, venue staff and policies can truly make or break a show. I found out last Monday night that the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, Arizona, is one of those venues that could potentially go either way, even in the course of a single show. In this case, the gig in question featured Australian hit maker Vance Joy, supported by American blues rocker Jaymes Young. Originally scheduled for the more intimate Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix (where I saw The Antlers back in July), the show was upgraded to the larger Marquee Theatre due to the blossoming popularity of Joy’s recent debut album ‘Dream Your Life Away’.
The Marquee Theatre is located just outside of downtown Tempe, itself a suburb of Phoenix. This just-outside-of-downtown location is somewhat inconvenient, as the venue is nestled into an awkward spot at the intersection of the Salt River, the Tempe Light Rail, the Red Mountain Freeway and main downtown thoroughfare Mill Avenue. The Marquee does offer a limited amount of on-site parking, but because I had to make the two-hour drive from Tucson, I didn’t arrive anywhere near early enough to take advantage of it for this sold-out show. Parking and walking back to the venue took close to half an hour, and I passed no fewer than three ticket scalpers as I traversed the three blocks. Once I arrived, I stood in three different lines before entering the building. The first was for a bag search (my packet of gum was confiscated because the venue has just installed new flooring) and a body pat down (no, that’s not a joke). In the second line, I was asked for ID to confirm my age (which apparently has no bearing on my ability to control chewing gum). I then entered the third line to have my ticket scanned and only to discover that, though the venue offered electronic tickets, the staff were unable to scan the QR code on my smartphone. After the slightly annoying delay of having the code manually entered by the unfailingly polite entrance staff, I walked into the venue just as Jaymes Young strummed the first chords of ‘Habits of My Heart’ on his electric guitar.
Despite my tardy arrival, I was able to find a spot with a good view, even from the back of the room. One nice thing about the Marquee Theatre is its excellent sight lines and another major plus for the venue is the surprisingly clear quality of the acoustics. I was able to see and hear remarkably well from my place just in front of the sound station. (Unfortunately, my smartphone photos don’t do the sight lines any justice. A new camera is on my holiday wish list!) I can’t speak for what might have gone on nearer to the stage, but in the back of the room, my fellow gig-goers were easygoing and mellow, not at all bothered to push and shove for better position, as there was really no need.
The stage and sound set up at the Marquee were definitely favorable for opening act Jaymes Young. He and his two bandmates were able to play a their 7-song set with the benefit of full sound and lighting, which probably kept his r&b-flavoured alt-rock from becoming mere background music for the multitudes of Vance Joy fans. Judging from the occasional squeals and shouts from the crowd, Young had a fair few dedicated fans at the Marquee, and his cover of John Mayer’s ‘I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You)’ was a particular favourite. Young and his mates were adept and personable on stage, but their original songs didn’t strike me as particularly special, especially after my recent exposure to English singer/songwriter James Bay. Bay and Young occupy similar niches in the blues rock troubadour market, but Young’s lyrics and vocals pale slightly in the comparison, as does his grey fedora alongside Bay’s trademark floppy headwear. Nevertheless, a quick post-concert listen on Spotify revealed that there might be more to Young’s songwriting than meets the eye (or ear?), and he is now officially on my radar.
After the brief stage break, Vance Joy’s entrance was surprisingly understated if not actually anti-climactic. He met the enthusiastic applause of the audience with a rather shy smile as he launched into ‘Emmylou’ from his 2013 EP ‘God Loves You When You’re Dancing’. It was an interesting opening choice, as the track doesn’t appear on his hugely successful current LP, but Joy seemed intent on teasing his audience, making us wait to the very end for the songs we already knew and loved.
For the meantime, Joy created a seamless if predictable set list, including 9 of the 13 tracks on ‘Dream Your Life Away’. I was especially pleased to hear ‘Georgia’, which is my personal favorite from the album, while older track ‘Snaggletooth’ garnered nostalgic applause from the members of the audience who were more familiar with Joy’s back catalogue. Joy and his bandmates played a tight, well-rehearsed set, which is to be expected as they near the end of their North American tour, but while the songs themselves were exquisitely performed, they did suffer from a slight lack of spontaneity. Joy himself was reserved on stage, keeping the between-songs conversation to a minimum and for the most part seeming content to stand behind the mic stand and sing. Aside from his guitar and ukulele playing, Joy’s stage movement consisted mostly of marching in place to the more upbeat numbers on the set list. For my money, Joy might do well to let this rather endearing quirk grow into a more natural stage presence to match the relaxed momentum of his music.
Joy did noticeably relax when he started the intro to ‘Riptide’, which received an enormous wave of applause. The energy of the well-known radio hit might have benefited Joy earlier on in the show, as the subdued audience suddenly burst into lively dancing and singing along, and I finally shook off my crankiness about the evening’s earlier events. Joy received a similarly enthusiastic response to current American radio single ‘Mess is Mine’, which closed the set proper. I wondered at that point if Joy would be able to pull off an encore, but there he proved that he had at least one surprise up his sleeve. After an appropriate interval off stage, he and his bandmates reappeared to perform a charming extended version of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’, with an energetic reprise of ‘Riptide’ in the instrumental bridge.
Vance Joy will have plenty of opportunity to polish his onstage manner in the coming months. He will be on tour in America through mid-December before making a run of Australian dates early next year, and he has recently announced a summer 2015 tour of North America in support of Taylor Swift. A complete list of live dates can be found on Joy’s official Web site.
After the cut: Jaymes Young and Vance Joy’s set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Vance Joy with Jaymes Young at Marquee Theatre, Tempe, AZ – 24th November 2014
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